What a long beautiful fall we have been enjoying! Students were still harvesting tomatoes as on-farm programs wrapped up just a couple weeks ago. Over 1,500 Rogue Valley students joined us on local farms this fall to explore, investigate, and taste the bounty. Children of all ages dug into compost, harvested vegetables, saved seeds, and learned to prepare a meal from scratch using produce fresh from the fields. After nearly a decade of watching students immerse themselves in local farms each fall, we continue to be amazed at the profound joy students experience when learning these real-life skills. This fall was our first time hosting Harvest Meals at Wandering Roots Farm in Gold Hill; students, teachers, volunteers, staff and the farmers all agree that this farm site is a wonderful additions to RVF2S programs!
Our new partnership with the SOU Center for Sustainability (CFS) in Ashland continues to be a great setting for RVF2S programs, we love having SOU students helping us deliver education programs. This fall was our second season hosting Harvest Meals at the CFS, and our first time hosting Fall Farm & Pumpkin Tours. Preschool and kindergarten students from throughout the valley visited CFS to taste tomatoes and kale, smell basil, learn about seasonal farm production, composting, harvest a pumpkin to take home. For most of these children, this is their first exposure to a working farm, sparking excitement and wonder at the production of food.
We have the great fortune to also host on-farm programs at Dunbar Farms in Medford and White Oak Farm Education Center in Williams where we have partnered for many years. The farms and farmers that we work with are very dear to us!
We also procure all the produce for our Tasting Table program from local farms. We are pleased to facilitate increased procurement by school food service as a result of new state and federal opportunities. So far this year, schools have purchased thousands of pounds of seasonal produce and line caught tuna from the Oregon coast.
While on-farm programs are resting for the winter, Tasting Tables continue through the school year at 10 schools in Ashland, Medford and Central Point. Each month students sample local, seasonal items prepared two ways. Students learn nutrition facts through interactive materials and express their appreciation for the Tastes by voting. Studies show that it takes 10-12 exposures to new fruits and vegetables to affect attitudes and behavior; RVF2S Tasting Tables and our other educational programs are many of those exposures.
Volunteers are also super important to RVF2S programs, without the tireless help of our dedicated volunteers we couldn’t do all we do. Thanks so much!